CARRION CROW (Corvus corone)


This intelligent, solitary corvid is often given a bad reputation as they scavenge food from our rubbish bins or eat the eggs of our more beloved songbirds. However, they are incredibly intelligent and successful birds that have colonised nearly all the UK, excluding Northwest Scotland and Northern Ireland. They are commonly seen on grasslands and farmlands but have adapted to nearly every habitat the UK offers, including our cities. As with other corvids, they are known for their mobbing behaviour, which they use to keep birds of prey away from their nests or food.

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Alert Status:

Green 18% increase

Estimated number of territories: 1,050,000

Listen to carrion crow song:


These crows can often be mistaken for other members of the Corvidae family such as rooks and ravens. Carrion crows have glossy all-black feathers, and, unlike rooks, they have an all-black beak with no bare patches, and no visible feathers on their legs. They are smaller than ravens with a longer more slender beak and square tail compared to the ravens pointed. They are often seen on their own or in pairs all around the UK. Carrion crows are monomorphic, meaning that the males and females look identical, and can only be sexed with highly accurate measures. Once they know your garden is safe, they can become frequent garden visitors.

Average Length:  45 - 47cm

Average Lifespan: 4 Years

Average Wingspan: 93-104 cm

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Carrion crow diet

Carrion crows are scavengers and will eat almost anything they can get their beaks on from seeds to eggs, and as their names suggests, carrion. They are often disliked as they feed on carcasses, but they play a vital role in the removal of dead material from their habitats and our cities.

How and what to feed them: Carrion crows will eat almost everything you put out from seeds to food scraps. However, having a feeding table will make it easier for them and avoid them damaging your smaller feeders.

Carrion crow breeding and nesting information

Unlike rooks, carrion crows are usually solitary nesters however some populations do cooperate with other pairs when nesting. They build large, rugged nests out of any material they can find such as sticks, bones and rags. They lay a single clutch of 3-4 eggs at the beginning of April which they incubate for 18-20 days, the hatchlings then remain in the nest for around 30 more days before fledging.

Threats to Carrion crows

Carrion crows are successful all over the UK and face few threats. However, carrion crows are often persecuted due to damage they can cause to livestock and crops. In the UK it is legal to trap and kill carrion crows with a licence. With the definition of livestock being expanded to include gamebirds, persecution of carrion crows is likely to increase. While evidence suggests that crows have a minor impact on prey populations there is some evidence that they can impact the productivity of prey species.

How you can help

  • Install a feeding table in your garden that crows can feed from as they may damage smaller feeders.
  • Provide a larger deeper bird bath which they can use to bathe and cool down in the summer.
  • Don’t scare them away if they come into your garden! If they feel safe, they will return to your garden over and over.

Fascinating Fact

Corvids (including crows) are known for their intelligence and have been shown to solve simple problems, use tools and recognise human faces and voices.
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Baglione, V., Marcos, J. M., & Canestrari, D. (2002). COOPERATIVELY BREEDING GROUPS OF CARRION CROW (CORVUS CORONE CORONE) IN NORTHERN SPAIN. The Auk, 119(3), 790–799.

British Trust for Ornithology (2023) Carrion crow, BTO. Available at:,close%20relative%2C%20the%20Hooded%20Crow. (Accessed: 06 August 2023).  

Inger, R., Cox, D. T. C., Per, E., Norton, B. A., & Gaston, K. J. (2016). Ecological role of vertebrate scavengers in urban ecosystems in the UK. Ecology and Evolution, 6(19), 7015–7023.

Kersten, Y., Friedrich-Müller, B., & Nieder, A. (2022). A brain atlas of the carrion crow (Corvus corone). Journal of Comparative Neurology, 530(17), 3011–3038.

Madden, C. F., Arroyo, B., & Amar, A. (2015). A review of the impacts of corvids on bird productivity and abundance. Ibis, 157(1), 1–16.  

RSPB (no date) Carrion crow facts: Corvus Corone, The RSPB. Available at: (Accessed: 06 August 2023).  

Wascher, C. A. F., Szipl, G., Boeckle, M., & Wilkinson, A. (2012). You sound familiar: carrion crows can differentiate between the calls of known and unknown heterospecifics.

Woodward,I., Aebischer, N., Burnell, D., Eaton, M., Frost, T., Hall, C., Stroud, D.A.& Noble, D. (2020). Population estimates of birds in Great Britain and theUnited Kingdom. British Birds. 113: 69–104.

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